Join our brand new verified AMN Telegram channel and get important news uncensored!

New technology a game changer for visually impaired service members and veterans

Twelve U.S. Army Soldiers share tactics and training with a little over 200 Nigerian Army Soldiers from 26th Infantry Battalion in a remote military compound four hours north of the capital in Jaji. (Capt. James Sheehan/U.S. Army)
November 16, 2017

Over the years, strict vision requirements have prevented thousands of individuals from joining the United States military. Two laser eye repair surgeries, LASIK and PRK, are the solution for people with poor vision who want to serve in positions where near perfect vision is a requirement. Now, a new breakthrough in technology has emerged that can help legally blind people see. eSight is a versatile, wearable, hands-free solution that provides sight, without the need for permanent surgery.

Conrad Lewis, the founder of eSight, has a personal reason he began to develop this technology. Lewis, a successful engineer, has two sisters who are legally blind. He wanted to know if he could apply his engineering skills to create a solution for the blindness his sisters suffer with. With eSight glasses, those living with legal blindness can enjoy mobility and independence as they engage in virtually all activities of daily living. You can use eSight to read and watch TV, see loved ones, play sports, engage in previously abandoned hobbies, travel the world, and more.

One major advocate for these glasses, Major General Gale Pollock, believes that vision restrictions should no longer dictate one’s ability to serve in the military knowing this technology exists.

Pollock is a retired United States Army major general who served as the Deputy Surgeon General of the United States Army from October 2006 to March 2007, and also as Chief of the Army Nurse Corps. After hearing the late Sen. Daniel Inouye from Hawaii ask three Surgeon Generals what the Department of Defense was doing for “blinded troopers,” Pollock became passionate about the issue.

“That question sowed a seed, and it has been a passion for me ever since,” Pollock told American Military News. “Once I became the Chief of the Army Nurse Corps, I worked with the data analysts in the Army and determined that 10 to 13 percent of all combat injuries involve the eye. It might be as small an injury as a lacerated eyelid or as severe as the removal of one or both eyes. Then, as we learned more about Traumatic Brain Injury [TBI], we know that there are vision changes as a result of TBI, as well. This brings the percentage of combat injuries with vision dysfunction to almost 25 percent. Certainly, there are positions in the military that would allow for the visually impaired to serve using a device like this – not every position, but let’s start seeing what the real potential could be.”

Pollock has been working with the VA, the Blinded Veterans Association and the Wounded Warrior Project to ensure these devices can get onto the faces of those who can benefit from them, including veterans. eSight has also been working to make their glasses accessible to all those who need them.

“It is in deep commitment to our mission that we strive to help every individual who needs eSight, get eSight,” a spokesperson from eSight told American Military News. “We are proud to say that our technology has already helped many veterans be able to actually see the flag under which they served. But there are many more veterans – true heroes who have put their lives on the line for their country – that deserve to see, and cannot currently afford our technology. And at eSight, we are working tirelessly to ensure that each blinded veteran who can benefit from our electronic glasses are able to access them. While we are constantly seeking to make eSight more affordable – including reducing the price and providing affordability programs for our community – we are also appealing to organizations and members of government who will see the economic and social justice in providing eSight to their legally blind members.”

Retired Army Staff Sgt. Robert Davis is just one example of how these glasses can change people’s lives.

“I noticed a few years ago, my eyes were blurry and at times bleeding. I found out that it was a case of macular degeneration,” Staff Sgt. Davis said. For years, he struggled to see – until he was recommended eSight.

“I was watching the kids play across the street yesterday and I could see their shirts, the lettering, it was really neat. I am really able to focus on shapes and colors. For the first time in over 20 years, I could enjoy the beauty of Lake Michigan,” Davis said about his new glasses. “It’s just incredible. There’s also a zoom button, I’m told, that will enlarge items up to their original size and a contrast control makes a room seem darker or lighter, to make it easier to distinguish objects from their surroundings.”